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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Shaping a Reader

When I was a little girl I had a nightstand next to my bed. Inside was a box I had saved. The box had once had a mug in it from my favorite movie, Annie. My obsession as a young child was rocks. And this box was full of them. Most of which had come from my driveway. You could often find me bent down, scouring the ground, looking for something spectacular. I think, at the time, it felt like a treasure hunt. 
My rocks were precious. I would often sort them, wash them, sometimes paint them with some clear nail polish. I loved my rocks. I loved learning about my rocks too. My favorite book was all about rocks and minerals. 
This book was in my hands more often than anything else around the age of six. I would look over it trying to find my rocks in the pages. I couldn't read and understand this whole book. However, I was reading it, the way a six-year-old reads a book they don't fully understand. 

Reading this book did not stunt my reading development. I was eager and motivated to learn, therefore I picked up this book over and over again. During this same time in my life, I was learning to read from a Basal reader, memorizing passages for stickers, and reading sentences from the blackboard. We had a lot of books in my home. My parents read to me every night. I ultimately learned to read with the help of teachers and my parents. Not everyone learns to read in this way. I know this because I have been able to share in the joy of many children as they learn to read. There are certainly things that help all children. Access to books is a primary circumstance of reading enthusiasm and achievement. Understanding sounds and manipulating them, hearing them, and recognizing the symbols they represent in written language is a large part of decoding text. Rich conversations, listening to a lot of reading, and drawing inferences from illustrations builds vocabulary development and understanding. Reading cannot be distilled down to a few steps, strategies, and skills. When you ask readers how they learned to read, their answers are mixed. Many probably don't know. Some respond immediately with the challenges they faced. All of these bits and pieces of a readers' story are what shape their relationship with reading. 

I came across my favorite book today when I was once again re-organizing my office/writing/remote classroom space. It paralleled the many conversations I've seen on Twitter and Facebook referring to reading, readers, and what they need. Or, what they don't need. It made me consider my own reading story. I wonder what all those who are writing about other people and their reading research would say about their own reading lives? My book about rocks and minerals helped shape my reading experiences. What shaped your relationship with reading?


  1. I was very much like you. Books were of abundant supply when I was growing up. The book I would try to read looked like yours but it was all about the night sky and the solar system. Both of my parents would read it to me when I was still learning how and once I became a reader I still found myself reading small pieces of it again and again. One of the things that fueled my love for reading is 100% of the time if we went to a bookstore or the mall and I asked to get a book the answer was always yes. My parents knew that it was important to keep fueling this love for book and it paid off. I excelled in reading once I started going to school. Every opportunity I had to go to the library (school and public) I always came away with a book or a stack of books.

  2. Betsy, you shared an interesting point. As a reading specialist and literacy administrator, I have always believed that children should follow their passion when reading. You have proved this thought for as a young child you could not read word for word of your rock book, yet it fascinated you and lead you to become a lifelong reader. I grew up loving books. My Nonnie who could not read, write, or speak English would take each week of the summer when I vacationed with her to the library. She even gave me money to buy a special fashion comic book. Reading stories are particularly important for their lead us on our pathway to literate lives.

  3. This slice is a little gem. Reading development is a bit like rock development: the readers start like sedimentary rocks with layers and layers of experience, and over time they go through a profound change and as a result we have a crystallised metamorphic rocking readers. (It sounded much better in my head than on the page. With your rock knowledge you could probably make much better comparison here.)

  4. I love your slice of life story. I remember “learning” to read by reading Dick and Jane books in the back of the room with an aide. I hated having to do that and was glad when that ended, though I have no memory of that beyond my place at the back of the room. Instead I remember combing used bookstores for books to feed my always growing reading habit. That’s still who I am today: drop me off at a bookstore or library and I’ll be happy for hours. Thanks for sharing this and stirring some of my own memories.


Thanks for the comment love!